Home to Blackpool Stanley
By Stuart Cooke
We hosted Blackpool Stanley on Saturday in NWML Division 5 ahead of the July/August break.
The weather had turned out and bathed the pitch in scorching heat, with the rugby matching its intensity.
Blackpool kicked off and immediately set Bolton Mets on the attack, moving down the pitch with some strong running the Forward pack set the perfect platform. Then from 20 metres out, Captain Daryl Devlin sent a high ball right down the fullback’s throat before the chasers snapped him up as soon as he gathered the ball. The game would ebb and flow like this for ten minutes as some tremendous tackling from both teams kept each other in check. Inevitably, pressure started to build and some sloppy line defence gave away a penalty before repeat sets took their toll and Stanley went over in the corner with an overlap.
Devlin’s KO was collected and Blackpool were right back at the Bolton defence. This time the lads dug in, and some tremendous tackling from Patrick OBrien and Ethan Hill forced the knock on. From the resulting scrum, Bolton drove their way up to the Blackpool 20 and some great passing between Devlin & OBrien resulted in Ben Latham going over in the corner in the 18th minute for the Mets opening try. Even though the kick was missed, the Mets were right back in it at 6-4.
The game was finely balanced, both sides failing to take their try scoring opportunities making for a tense encounter.
Tom Bradley twice broke through the Stanley defensive line, after some good work from Ethan Hill, but was unable to outpace the Blackpool Winger on his way to the line. Also, making a number of one on one try saving tackles on his own line, Full Back OBrien kept out the opposition.
The ruck area was a great source of success for the Mets in the first half as hooker Adam Ryan was constantly testing the markers with smart darting runs and relieving pressure. Going into the last 10 minutes of the half the unrelenting heat seemed to affect the Mets more than Blackpool as a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes led to two quick tries. The first a debatable grounding on our line which should have been snuffed out by our marker and the second another overlap in the corner for a walkover try.
Rather than drop their heads, the Mets forced a mistake from Blackpool that saw Patrick OBrien finish off a flowing move with some strong running to score near the sticks. Daryl Devlin added the extras to make the score going into HT 16-10 to the Away side.
The message at half time was positive from the Assistant Coaches Sam Heyes and Darren Robinson Snr. The main message was for us to be strong on line defence and defend a little wider on our right edge, as that was an area Blackpool had exploited well. Unfortunately we had lost Anthony Knight with a hamstring injury, and the hard running Loose Forward Ryan McClusky was also struggling with and ankle problem. Undeterred, the Mets players took to the field for the second period with intentions off overturning the deficit.
The second half started in a similar vein as the first half ended, both teams carrying the ball upfield with some strong running but it was Bolton who blinked first with a missed tackle on the left edge allowing the Blackpool Fullback in behind to score the first points of the half. The second try followed soon after, some good work in the middle sucked in much needed defenders after some strong running by Blackpool’s number 7 and 13. Another try out wide and the score line was starting to get away from the Mets at 24-10.
After the flurry of quick fire tries, the Mets players rallied under the sticks before forcing a goal line drop out from the kick off. The drop out went to the right edge, from where it was returned strongly by Tom Bradley and Ryan McClusky. Having settled in the Centre position in recent weeks, Ethan Hill took the ball in and with exceptional footwork evaded all would be tacklers and scored a great try to get the Mets back in the match on 56 minutes. The successful conversion made it 24-16 in favour of Blackpool.
The next 20 minutes would see the Mets dominate the match, having wave after wave of pressure on the Blackpool line. Unfortunately, untimely passes, or trying to do too much, resulted in turn over ball time and time again as the Blackpool Stanley defence showed great resilience holding out the determined Bolton attack. The left edge of Callum Smith and Ben Latham consistently tested and broke the line with an incredible desire to get hands on the ball.
At the heart of all the action the evergreen Mark Dorning was trying to direct plays with the equally effective Daryl Devlin. Another half of magnificent attacking intent from Adam Ryan was proving to be our most potent weapon in getting down the pitch, in one mazy run he took on all comers making 40 yards up the pitch shrugging off and evading tackler after tackler.
Entering the last 5 minutes of the match it seemed Bolton had thrown all they had at the Blackpool defence but just couldn’t force the mistake, or score the much needed try. Inevitably, Blackpool escaped their half in one of their only forays into our territory and scored a well worked try down the middle, this making the final score 30-16.
The match was a great spectacle and proved how high the quality of rugby is in the NWML Division 5. Man of the Match for Bolton Mets was Patrick OBrien for his magnificent tackling and attacking prowess. An honourable mention must also go to Adam Ryan in his first match of the season providing an excellent performance in the hooker position.
We now head into a summer break, after results of a league wide survey showed players didn’t want to play as much in July or August, with two possible friendlies and a tour game vs a North East Select XIII next on the agenda.